Separation of powers

  • November 5, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Simon Lazarus

    *Simon Lazarus is a lawyer and writer who has frequently contributed to this blog on legal issues related to the health reform wars and other matters. 

    In endlessly excoriating President Barack Obama’s administration of the Affordable Care Act, ACA opponents featured a once obscure constitutional provision, the Article II clause that directs the President to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Legally, the charge that Obama had breached his “take care” obligation was patently meritless, and Obama’s assailants never took their bombast seriously enough to substantiate it, let alone fit it into a claim to take to court. 

    Indeed, no court has ever invoked the Take Care Clause as a basis for constraining alleged executive overreach. There are obvious reasons for this. If there were an articulated standard for defining a violation of the clause, it could presumably be comparatively complicated to meet it. A jumping off analogy might be former Justice William Rehnquist’s dictum, in the 1985 case Heckler v. Chaney, suggesting that courts must defer to executive branch decisions not to initiate enforcement proceedings, unless an “agency has consciously and expressly adopted a general policy that is so extreme as to amount to an abdication of its statutory responsibilities.” In that vein, to make out a violation of the president’s take care responsibility, one would likely have to demonstrate a pattern of actions that undermine a law, or laws, and – because of the clause’s focus on good faith (“faithful execution”) – actions that hamstring the law intentionally. While bad intentions can be, and often are, proven by objective, circumstantial evidence, executive officials bent on nullifying a law have presumably had sufficient savvy to cloak wrongful intent behind well-orchestrated procedures that would deter a judge from finding or a litigant from hanging her case on an allegation that they did in the law on purpose.

    Until now.

  • October 20, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Ryan J. Suto, J.D., Government Relations Manager, Arab American Institute

    Two federal court rulings this week constitute a third strike for the Trump administration’s attempt at enforcing a Muslim ban. The Administration issued an indefinite Muslim ban late last month, Proclamation 9645, prompting the Supreme Court to rule moot litigation regarding the previous, temporary version of the ban. However, hours before the new ban was set to take effect on October 18, US District Courts in Hawai‘i and Maryland halted a majority of the policy from taking effect, largely arguing that the new indefinite ban does not avoid the statutory and Constitutional infirmaries of its temporary predecessors.

    Rulings on the Latest Muslim Ban

    On Tuesday Judge Watson in Hawai‘i ruled against the government in Hawai‘i v. Trump, granting a temporary restraining order against the policy with respect to the ban’s listed Muslim-majority countries. Early Monday morning Judge Chuang in Maryland entered a preliminary injunction for same countries in favor of plaintiffs in IRAP et. al v. Trump.

  • October 18, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Pratheepan Gulasekaram, Professor of Law, Santa Clara University

    Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a “last chance” warning to several “sanctuary cities.” The letters - sent to Cook County, Illinois; Chicago, Illinois; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York, New York; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – informed local officials that their policies regarding investigation of an individual’s immigration status, or their reporting of the same, may be in violation of federal law. Further, if they do not provide additional assurances that they are in compliance with the specified federal law by October 27th, they risk losing certain law enforcement grants (Byrne/JAG funds) that the Department of Justice (DOJ) administers to localities to augment their policing, equipment, prosecution, corrections, drug treatment plans, victim or witness programs, or other related efforts. 

    These ominous letters, with accompany rhetoric from the Attorney General, continue the Trump Administration’s months-long campaign against cities that have exercised their constitutionally-protected prerogative to decline participation in federal immigration enforcement efforts. As has become routine for Sessions, this latest round includes the same misrepresentations linking immigrants and criminality that he and the President have consistently spewed, with the Attorney General repeating the falsehood that sanctuary policies make cities more dangerous.

  • October 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Ashley Deeks, Professor of Law and Senior Fellow, Center for National Security Law, at the University of Virginia School of Law

    Last week, North Korea’s Foreign Minister claimed that President Trump had “declared a war” on his country.  He apparently reached that conclusion based on President Trump’s tweet stating that North Korea “won’t be around much longer” if the Foreign Minister’s U.N. speech accurately represented the thoughts of Kim Jong Un.  In response to this alleged U.S. declaration of war, the Foreign Minister threatened that North Korea would shoot down U.S. aircraft flying off the North Korean coast, even if the aircraft were in international airspace.

    Is North Korea correct that President Trump declared war?  And if so, what follows as a legal matter?

  • July 27, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Renato Mariotti, Partner, Thompson Coburn LLP

    Ever since word surfaced last week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining financial transactions involving President Trump’s businesses and associates, the Trump legal team has leveled charges that Mueller has strayed “beyond the mandate of the Special Counsel.” There is no reason to believe that Mueller has done so.

    As a starting point, it is worth noting that Mueller’s mandate is extraordinarily broad. He is not only empowered to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” but he is also permitted to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

    That means that if Mueller’s team uncovers evidence of a crime that is related in any way to the crimes they are investigating, that is within the scope of his investigation. For instance, an individual could have structured a cash transaction to hide money payments to a hacker who obtained emails or to an American in exchange for assistance, an entity could have laundered money used to aid in coordination efforts, or evidence of a financial crime could have been used by the Russian government to blackmail an American into cooperating with them.